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I've got that Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart! (and thoughts on Lent in 2019)
Lent 2019 Mother Nature Network

Lent 2019 Mother Nature Network

I have learned a lot about Lent since I started attending SMC. I really didn’t have many Lent take-aways from my childhood and adolescence in my little church growing up – and probably because I just didn’t really understand the significance of it. Reflection was not a tool in my toolbox at that point in my life. And refocusing on Christ wasn’t a big thing, because I hadn’t any life experience at that point that would draw me away from Him or lead me to question Him. *Sigh* the good ole days.

But, oh boy, have I been in the wilderness in adulthood! I have been tempted and tested and tried. I’ve been worn down and exhausted beyond reason. I’ve been hurt, broken, defeated. And I did not handle it like Jesus a good bit of the time. I’m thankful to have re-established my relationship with Jesus, so that’s not a constant pattern any longer. Make no mistake, some days I still don’t handle things well, because of selfishness or impetuous reaction or just not being connected enough to God.

So, this year, coming out of a season of darkness (Praise God!), I decided to make a really concerted effort during Lent toward fasting from negativity. Trusting really, truly that He is good and finding reasons to rejoice, even if my moment or my day or my week are less than stellar. I could have given up sugar, or social media, or any number of things. I could have taken on a literal fast (hard pass – I’m just not there yet). But I have felt led to fixate during this time on being joyful, regardless of external circumstances or stressors in my life. After all, He calls us to joy.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless. (Galatians 5:22 TPT)

(Read this next line in your best Southern voice) Can I just tell you something? I have felt joy bubble up and emanate forth from the top of my noggin down to the tips of my toes. I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time. And some of my external circumstances have been a cause for joy as well (even though some things have changed; really most things have stayed the same). I could sit and argue the finer points of which came first – chicken or egg style – but I won’t, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am choosing to remain obedient in honoring how He wants me to live. I can feel it in my bones, and I feel like I’m wearing somebody’s crown jewels around my neck like a badge of honor. IT’S AMAZING!

My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! (John 15:11 TPT)

You love him passionately although you did not see him, but through believing in him you are saturated with an ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory. (1 Peter 1:8 TPT)

Yes! Yes to all of that!!!!

Look, I know it won’t always be like this. There will be seasons that rock my little boat again. But I’m working in these 40 days to make it more of a lifestyle than it has ever been for me, in the hopes that it will carry through after Easter Sunday. I have felt this joy before on Easter Sundays past (it’s my favorite holiday because it is remembrance of the BEST GIFT we’ve ever been given – the joy often leaks out of my eyes those days). I’m just so thankful I’m living in that same joy now leading up to the day.

To know that I am loved and chosen and needed by our Creator God, and that He has a plan for me (whether I have it figured out or not), has finally resonated so deeply in this season that  I can’t not be joyful. My prayer for you, Friend, is that you know this very same thing – and that you feel it (in His time) as strongly as I do right now.

We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God! (Hebrews 12:2 TPT)

May the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty in Heaven, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fill you with more joy than you will ever be able to contain.

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Love, Jess

*featured photo credit goes to the Mother Nature Network

Living Lent with Purpose

Lent March 2019Open your mind. Open your eyes. Open your heart.  If the eyes of your mind and heart are not fully opened, there could be endless love that you are not aware is present. Lent is first and foremost about my relationship with God. It hasn’t always been that way.  Sometimes I have managed to completely miss the point of Lent.  Giving up something was only a minor inconvenience while counting down the number of days until it was over!  Selfish, huh? It didn’t challenge me, and it certainly didn’t help me grow in my faith.  I would often get so preoccupied with the fasting part of Lent that I wasn’t receptive to the spiritual aspect of Lent.  I can diet or fast only for so long before my body demands to be fed.  My spiritual malnutrition is no different.

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:36-38

Twelve years ago, during Lent 2007, I made the decision to follow Jesus Christ through prayer of redemption, peace and forgiveness. I fasted from a life of destruction. Every action, I prayed for others to see Him in me.  Every word, I spoke with perseverance. My spiritual awakening began from accepting an invitation to St. Mark’s Church.  It was at SMC where I learned about the empty cross and the path of redemption.  My church became my second family. With my previous religious upbringing, I did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ or with other believers.

I want to know Christ ~ yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death.  Philippians 3:10

What better time to go on a journey of discovery to get to know God better.  With this sense of urgency and if I don’t get to know God better, I wouldn’t get to know myself better. When we don’t know God, we don’t learn about our issues.  Right?  I’ve endured because of my faith, but I question “what if there is more?”  There is no better time than right now to be still and know God through my fasting.  Isn’t this the best thing that can happen to us? When the Lord meets us in our quiet times and talks to us, we will learn something about God’s love and mercy.  Not just during Lent but every day.

In the Book of Hosea, God tells His people “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  Above all else, God desires that we love Him and know Him.  When Jesus is fasting in the desert, He is tempted several times by the Devil.  In the last of these temptations, the Devil leads Jesus up a mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-10). “All these I will give you”, the devil says, “if you bow down and worship me.” Yet Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’”

Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel… that’s exactly what I prayed during Lent 2007.

Since my old days of fasting from one of my bad habits, I desired anticipating the “Coming of Christ” by learning how “My ABC’s Will Lift My Spirit,” by Iyanla Vanzant.

I now open my heart and mind to be aware

Almighty Creator of the Universe;

Beloved Father, God;

Create in me a clean heart this day.

Deliver me from the limitations of the ego.

Exalt Your Presence in my mind.

Forgive all that I have held against you, myself and others.

Grant me peace this day.

Hold me steadfastly within the boundaries of your truth.

Inspire my heart to know you, my ears to hear you and my eyes to recognize you.

Justify me in the presence of all enemies.

Knead my heart with words of kindness.

Let no harm befall me or my loved ones.

May all I do this day glorify you.

Nourish me with your wisdom.

Open my eyes to know your truth.

Purge my heart of all things that are offensive to your law.

Quiet my soul during confusion.

Renew my connection to you.

Save me from my secret fears.

Teach me to trust you at all times.

Use all that you have given me to serve you.

Victory for your cause is my desire.

Walk with me so that my strength will never be diminished.

Xamine my heart continually.

Your love and grace are my good fortune.

Zealously I commit myself to your will for my life.

Just for today, practice making each letter in the alphabet come alive in your life.  The purpose of the commitments you make during Lent isn’t to drop them the moment Lent is over. Fasting, yes, but they’re meant to be a solid foundation for living out your faith every day!  Will you remember your ABC’s?  Use fasting to break free from anything that is holding you back in your relationship with God.

Lent is an incredible spiritual opportunity to start (or re-start) practices that take you deeper in your relationships with God and with the people around you.  Don’t miss this opportunity… Living Lent with Purpose.

In Faith,

Lynne Parr

PL Parr

WritersLynne ParrComment
Will You Practice With Me?

IMG_1079 It’s the first day of Lent.  Ash Wednesday.

For Christians, Lent is the 40 days before Easter Sunday.  It was originally designed to be an act of fasting, repentance, and spiritual discipline like Jesus did in the wilderness, while also reflecting on the suffering and sacrifice Jesus did on the cross for our salvation and the eternal joy of resurrection to new life.

It’s a holy experience where we choose to deliberately reflect on all that Jesus did for you and for me.  A way to reflect is to take part in the life, heart and soul of Jesus and practice the way He lived.  And maybe when we practice for 40 days it becomes a habit.

So, the next 40 days will you practice with me?

Practice sacred time with Father God like Jesus did in the late and early dark mornings and night hours

Practice not giving in to temptations like Jesus did in the wilderness for 40 days.

Practice simplicity like homeless Jesus did as he trusted God to provide.

Practice kindness like Jesus did when he looked people in the eye and listened to their story.

Practice generosity like Jesus did when he gave all he had.

Practice intentionality like Jesus did when he spent time, conversations, laughs and cries with his disciples.

Practice suffering like Jesus did when he saw others suffering.

Practice desire like Jesus did when he longed for everyone to have a personal relationship with God…and did something about it.

Practice grief like Jesus did when he was deeply troubled and cried to Abba to taken away the awful hours ahead as he foreknew he’d be in extreme pain and dying on a cross.

Practice sacrifice like Jesus did giving himself as an offering to God for the sake of others.

The next six weeks, may you practice Lent in a way that can become a habit or rhythm so you can experience God in a resurrected way.

Beth 

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